• Maria Elena Garcia ’21

This summer, I was given the opportunity to do a 10-week internship in Des Moines, Iowa. The Diversity in Arts Leadership program, administered by Americans for the Arts, partnered with Bravo Greater Des Moines to host this arts-administration internship project in Iowa. 

Seven interns, including myself, participated in this program. We were each assigned a host site where we would spend those 10 weeks working on specific projects within those organizations. I was partnered with CultureALL, a nonprofit organization that provides diverse programs to schools, businesses, and communities in central Iowa. My project goals were to assist CultureALL in having a stronger culture of feedback between the organization, educators, and cultural ambassadors. Culture ambassadors are those that provide workshops in schools, businesses, etc. about their culture to create a hands-on, interactive, and authentic experience with their audience.

My supervisor, Stacey Kimberlin, provided a great amount of support during those 10 weeks. I would meet with her daily to discuss how I could meet those [project] goals as well as meet my personal goals to strengthen my communication and feedback skills. In addition to meeting with her, she took me to some workshops that the cultural ambassadors did in schools or nursing homes. Even though the summer is their slowest time of the year, I was able to see workshops from countries and cultures such as Taiwan, Russia, Africa, Ukraine, India, Scotland, Global-Jewish, Mexico, and Vietnam. These people that live in Iowa can share more about their culture and traditions through CultureALL.

I worked closely with the cultural ambassadors. It is important to CultureALL that the ambassadors can receive and give feedback easily and in a way in which they prefer. Stacey and the executive director, Sherry Gupta, helped me develop some interview questions on how they prefer to receive communication and feedback from the CultureALL staff. Upon finishing my interview questions, I began scheduling ambassadors to have an interview with me. I interviewed 39 ambassadors and found commonalities and concerns from them. I used that information to offer different ideas on how feedback can be given and how often. I was able to help redesign the educator survey so that each ambassador at an event gets their individual feedback. I created a survey for ambassadors to have a way of giving feedback back to CultureALL.

It was a challenge to be able to get so many interviews done in a short amount of time. Within doing these interviews, I did strengthen my communication skills with people of very diverse backgrounds. The greatest benefit of this internship were the connections I made with many people and making lifelong friends within the cohort. It was great seeing them throughout the week and discussing our experiences with each other. Part of this internship involved visiting each other’s site every Wednesday afternoon. Each intern would present what they are doing in their site and their goals for their unique projects. 

This internship not only gave me some professional experience; it helped me have a better idea of what I would like to do as an artist when I would get back in Texas. I found this new sense of passion for what I would like to achieve at Southwestern. I do want to begin establishing myself as an artist in general and with my henna business, Mehndi Maria. Also, after learning a little more of what I want to do in the future, I know I am a strong, Hispanic, and queer woman that can and will achieve her goals.